Controlling urinary problems after surgery

After surgery for prostate cancer (a radical prostatectomy), many men experience urinary leaking. The leaking is usually worse straight after treatment and improves in the months following, but there are many things you can do to take control.

Incontinence was a big change for me. I started wearing pads because I couldn't control the leakage, but I had a hard time getting used to having them in my life every day. But once I learned how to use them more effectively, I learned how to handle it a lot better.

Michael, 67

Try products designed
to control leaking

Leaks can happen at any time, day or night, catching you off guard. For some men, leaks happen more in the evening than during the day. This is because our muscles get weaker as we get tired later in the day. Just like your other muscles, the muscles controlling your urine (wee) get tired too.

To keep you comfortable and protected no matter what time of day, try some incontinence products.

Your options may include:

  • pads
    (that sit inside your underwear)

  • underwear briefs that slide on and absorb leaks easily. Many men say these feel just like regular underwear.

  • temporary devices that stop urine leaks without blocking blood flow

Where can I buy them?

  • Ask at your local pharmacy or look in the health product aisles of supermarkets and retailers to find the products to try (it’s important to find what works for you, so you can stock up).

  • If you’re worried about buying them in person, check online for good options that may be delivered to your door.

What kind should I get?

There are a variety of options for men depending on where you live. Your doctor or nurse can also recommend some good options that may be cheap and convenient.

Tip — Some men prefer to use women’s pads. Women’s pads are often very absorbent and designed to be comfortable and undetectable.

These products are meant to keep you confident and comfortable, day or night, so you can continue to do the things you love without slowing down.

For more on finding the most suitable continence product for you, visit Continence Product Advisor or Bladder & Bowel UK

Try pelvic floor
muscle exercises (Kegels)

Kegels are exercises you can do to help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and reduce urine leakage. Speak to your doctor before starting Kegels to make sure they're safe for you.

Maintain a
healthy lifestyle

Eat plenty of whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables

Constipation can make your leakage worse by adding pressure against your bladder. Make sure you’re getting plenty of fibre daily to get your bowels moving. Start with small portions and gradually increase the amount of higher fibre foods in your diet.

Avoid alcohol

Drinking alcohol can make urinary problems worse. While you’re getting things under control, aim to cut back on alcohol as much as possible. Reducing the amount you drink, or not drinking at all, can help improve your symptoms.

Drink more fluids

When you don’t drink enough water and fluids, your urine (wee) becomes darker and more concentrated. This can irritate your bladder wall and cause leaks. Make sure you stay hydrated, avoiding any type of alcohol and caffeine, to improve your bladder control and bowel function. You can start by sipping fluids slowly throughout the day, versus drinking large amounts at once.

Reduce or quit smoking

Quitting smoking can improve your health all around. Talk to your doctor about options to help you stop smoking or gradually cut back.

Reduce caffeine

Some men will find it helpful to reduce caffeine, as caffeine can irritate the bladder and affect how well it works. Food and drinks with caffeine include:

• chocolate

• coffee

• tea

• fizzy drinks, such as Coca Cola & Pepsi

• energy drinks

More about steps to take for a healthy lifestyle

Safe exercise

In the early stages of recovery, you may need to adjust your exercise routine. High impact exercise can increase leakage. If your routine includes heavy strength training (using weights), reduce your weights. Speak to your doctor or nurse about a suitable exercise programme for you.

Know your medications

Some medications can affect your urinary health. Please talk to your doctor or pharmacist to ask any questions, and understand what you’re taking.

Avoid foods that irritate your bladder

Some foods can also irritate your bladder. These include spicy foods, some acidic citrus foods such as oranges and grapefruit, fruit juices, and tomato-based foods. You can try using a food diary to track how these foods might affect you. Eliminate these foods for about a week and re-introduce them back, one by one, to see if there is any change.

Talk to your
doctor, nurse or care team

If your leaking is heavy and preventing you from doing your usual daily activities, speak to your family doctor, or a urology or continence nurse for guidance. They can help you find a local bladder and bowel service.

Look for continence services
and resources online

The Continence Foundation of Ireland offers information on physiotherapy for bowel and bladder control, and you can search for a physiotherapist working in your area on the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists website. Information on continence care for adults can also be found by visiting Health Services Ireland.

Know where to
find a toilet

In Ireland, you may also be able to get a medical card for speedier access to toilet facilities. The card is wallet-sized and discrete, and was developed by the Irish Cancer Society (ICS).
To learn more, contact the ICS Cancer Nurseline on 1800 200 700, or the ICS Daffodil Centre.

What's next?

Now that you've read up on Controlling urinary problems after surgery, here are some related articles to explore as you continue to build your knowledge and understanding of this topic.
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